From August 21 to 23, 2019, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) conducted a three-day workshop in Guwahati where legal scholars and practicing lawyers helped equip local, district level lawyers and paralegal volunteers with in-depth skills and training to navigate the complex issue of citizenship after the publication of the list. Before and after that, since 2017, the vibrant CJP’s Team Assam has been conducting smaller and larger district level trainings in various parts of the state.
The workshop was top-lined by several legal luminaries including Ashish Dasgupta (legal scholar and senior advocate), HRA Choudhury (author, legal scholar and senior advocate, Gauhati High Court), Bijan Chandra Das (former Advocate General, Tripura), Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya (former Advocate General, Tripura), Mihir Desai (senior advocate, Mumbai High Court), Abdur Rahman Sikdar (senior advocate Gauhati High Court) and Mrinmoy Dutta (advocate, Gauhati High Court). The proceedings were conceptualized and conducted by Teesta Setalvad (Secretary, CJP) and Zamser Ali (State Coordinator, CJP). Eminent academicians such as Prof. Abdul Mannan (Gauhati University) and Amal Kanti Raha (former HOD of Bengali in Pandu College) also graced the workshop. Renowned economist Ananta Kalita (former Chairman, Board of Directors, State Bank of India), civil society member Hareshwar Barman (former member AASU, founding member Sanmilita Janogosthiya Sangram Samitee) and social activist Abdul Batin Khandakar also shared valuable insights. Many other legal eagles such as advocates Inam Uddin, Mul Hoque, Azizur Rehman and Mustafa Khaddam Hussain also conducted sessions for the paralegals.
At the August 2019 legal training, CJP came up with a unique method of disseminating legal wherewithal. Now, all over Assam there is a demand that the resources that we so creatively and widely disseminated, be made available on our website. We distributed digital copies of over 2,000 pages worth of legal resources such as orders, judgments (of various courts), notifications, and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) related to the Claims and Objections Process of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) as well as various processes and procedures related to defending citizenship before Foreigners’ Tribunals.
Our aim has been to equip a vast and qualified citizenry, lawyers, volunteers, paralegals and all citizens with the wherewithal to navigate and negotiate the complex ‘citizenship embrologio.’ Apart from the 1.9 million (19,00,000) and their siblings and families excluded from the final list of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), there are at least another 1,17,000 persons today ‘Declared Foreigners’ and another 1,13,000 declared ‘D Voters’ by the Election Commission. The affected population is so large that without the widespread involvement of community and district volunteers, trained with the legal wherewithal, there is no way that the spectre of statelessness can be fought.
At CJP we believe in sharing this valuable resource freely, so that anyone who wants or needs it, has ready and free access to it. We hope by making these resources public, we can inspire many others to join our efforts to protect and defend the rights of our fellow Indians in Assam.